Saturday, February 28, 2015

Fern Thoughts for Spring

You know how every fall the car maintenance people talk about being 'winter-ready'? Well, I am spring-ready. Very. I've had enough snow and enough cold and it can be spring any time now, thanks.

By co-incidence, one of blogs I follow, Ailsa Francis' 'Hortus 2', has news about a new fern nursery in Nova Scotia. And she has an article in today's Ottawa Citizen about it, too. What could be more spring-like than ferns? Those wonderful unfolding croziers:

Those are Cinnamon Fern, Osmundastrum cinnamoneum,  fiddleheads. They are covered with soft white hairs and are very striking in the spring garden. When you see these, you know spring is really here! Did you also know that the fronds, which form very quickly after the fiddles unfurl, and can be up to 4 feet long, have soft downy hairs at the bases of each pinna? You can see them here, little tufts of white hairs:

It is our only native fern that has those, making identification very easy!

Another one that is easy to identify is Evergreen Wood Fern, Dryopteris intermedia. It has tiny glandular hairs all over the stipe, rachis and costae.

You can just see them here - tiny little white dots. If you inspect them with a hand lens you can see that each one is like a wee hat pin, a straight stalk with a little dot on top. You can sometimes feel them if you draw your hand gently along the back of the frond.

Then there is a native fern that has tiny bulblets on the fronds.... another one that has a delightful spicy scent...

Have I got you intrigued? Like to know more about ferns? (What is a stipe anyway?) Do come out to my fern garden and learn more about ferns! I'm planning a Fern Day on June 28, a Sunday. I'm not sure of all the details yet, but we'll definitely tour the garden and see ferns (I have most of the 39 or so native species although not all of them in the gardened area), there will be fern-related items for sale in Crabapple Gallery, there may be a fern-y snack, tea, who knows what else. (Check out the box in the sidebar for details.)

Or come out to the Fletcher Wildlife Garden. Two keen helpers and I have been busy installing ferns in the back of the Backyard Garden. It will be the W. J. Cody Memorial Fern Garden (or Trail or Walk, the name isn't totally decided yet) and will be officially opened some time this summer.  We hope to have all the native Ottawa Valley ferns that can be grown in a garden situation there, properly labelled and set off with native companion plants. Again, check the sidebar for details as they develop.

Ah, spring. A time to dream.... perchance of this:

I can hardly wait! Spring-ready! Yes!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Happy Valentines Day!

I know it's cold and snowy, but it is almost Valentine's Day and love is in the air!

The flowers and plants we love so much often have heart-shapes - leaves, florets, even snow caps can be heart-shaped. And so many of them are in the Heart Day colours, from softest rose to glowing red.

The red rose bud in the middle is for my dear husband, Robert. It is his birthday today, and this is a special Happy Birthday Valentine just for him.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Going South In February

Doing a bit of daydreaming this morning. In my mind's eye I am wandering along a soft sandy beach, with gentle waves lapping at the edge, birds singing, a warm sun soothing away my every care...

Not. Going. To. Happen.

But I can, in my mind's eye, visit the tropics! I can pretend I'm in a dense forest in Central South America, looking at Tillandsia plants. They grow all over the trees and vines around me, right up in the air. Some of them have roots, but the roots are only to attach the plants to their supports. The plants are mostly green, but some are grey with pink or blue flowers. There is a lot of Spanish Moss around and some bright coloured birds flitting about. I blink and now I'm wandering around a bit of a desert... sand, rocks, dry stream bed, very grey coloured Tillandsias tucked into crevices. It's hot. It's bright. A surprising number of birds, busy around various cactus-like plants. Blink again and poof! I'm in a damp shady jungle. It's so wet the humidity drips off my nose. More Tillandsias, now mostly green and shiny. Weird noises, off.

Such is the wild and wonderful world of the Air Plant.

There are about 560 species of Tillandsias, give or take a few. Nobody is really sure as they haven't been studied all that much. They are native to Central and South America and the more southerly States as well as the West Indies. They are epiphytes - growing attached to, but not taking any nourishment from, structures such as trees, rocks, logs or sandy soils. They do have roots, but these are for holding on, not for extracting nutrients. They get what they need from the water that falls on them. Some of the minerals they need are dissolved in the rain that falls on them, and some are dissolved in the water that drips down on them from the canopy above. The leaves are covered with special scales that trap moisture and release it slowly as the plant dries. The plants also use what is called the CAM cycle of growth, that is, their stomata open at night and the plant is active during the cooler damper part of the 24-hour day. During the day the stomata close and the plant stores the energy it develops from photosynthesis, for use during the night.

So in my daydream I'm picking Tillandsias that look new and interesting and carefully packing them to bring home and grow in dark dry snowy Ottawa. Luckily, I'm a potter in my other life and have made some fun holders for them.

tillandsia pots

The one on the left is about 9" high and the bunny is actually a little smaller. I can easily either spritz the plants where they are, or take them to the sink for a good soak. Air Plants need a good soak, followed by a good drying, 2 or 3 times a week. Use regular tap or rain water, not softened water (too much salt) or distilled water (no nutrients). They should also get a bit of fertilizer mixed at 1/4 strength once a month or so.

These pottery holders can be immersed in the sink, and can be scrubbed if fertilizer builds up on them. The plants are glued on with E6000, a clear-drying waterproof glue that won't hurt them.

Hang your Air Plant in an East or West window and make sure it gets bright light but not too much direct sunlight. Do not forget it in the summer! You can take it outside and hang it under a deciduous tree, but then, don't forget it in the fall!

Wherever you put it, look at it regularly, and pretend you are in the tropics, and there is no February.